I was given the opportunity on Friday to join the judging panel for the Nantwich CAMRA Beer Festival Champion Beer of Cheshire.
Approaching the day I was really excited about the prospect, as it was something I’ve wanted to do for a good while. I also was I have to admit, a little scared about what was to come (#judgedredd as Broadford Brewer quite rightly put it), as selfishly it’s a test surely of one’s ability to seek out flavours and aromas in public arena, or at least I thought it would be.
It’s more than that though, it has a deeper importance, you are forming part of what will beer the final decision that could be a real boost to a brewery, casting a vote on their pride and joy and ultimately their livelihood. After all, what if one of these anonymous beers went onto be voted as Champion Beer of Britain?
For anyone who has not seen or been involved in this type of thing, to set the scene youare sat around a table with a sort of mini Chairman who leads you. It’s that persons job to prepare you as to what’s to come, beer styles, the criteria you are expected to pass judgement on and the rationale behind the marking system.
When the beer finally arrives you are told only what style it is, Best Bitter for example and what the ABV should fall between. From there on in it’s your job to mark the beer out of ten for each of the four categories:
What is really strange about tasting beer in this way is how different it becomes when the beer is stripped bare, naked as the day it was first given life by the master brewer.
You have no flashy branding, quirky pump clips or labels.
You cannot refer to any previous experiences you may have had with either that particular beer or the brewery it came from and therefore no preconceptions on which to base your decision.
It’s just beer, in a plain glass and you….